The Endo-Fibro Connection
Who Is Affected with Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a far reaching and often misunderstood ailment that affects about one in ten women worldwide who are of childbearing age. The disease has not been well-publicized even though its numbers exceed those of women who suffer with breast cancer or AIDS. Many women have the disorder and do not experience serious symptoms, and many others endure the terrible pain, cramping and discomfort that are commonly associated with endometriosis. The cause remains a mystery and the only way it can be definitively diagnosed is through surgery.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis begins with cramping and abdominal pain accompanied by painful periods and heavy bleeding. Ultimately, it can affect fertility to the point where a woman is unable to conceive and carry a pregnancy. The condition is a biological malfunction of the reproductive organs in a woman, predominantly the misplacement of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. This tissue attaches to the organs in the pelvic cavity, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outside of the uterus and can be found on the bladder and kidneys as well. The tissue is hormonally sensitive and thickens then bleeds during menses. However, it is not flushed out of the body because it is outside of the uterus. The blood that sits in the abdomen causes inflammation and pain as well as scarring and adhesions. When organs become glued together with adhesions, the end result is infertility.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Painful periods, with pain increasing before and during menses
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic and low back pain that is chronic
- Heavy periods
- Irregular periods
- Painful bowel movements, especially during menses with either diarrhea and constipation
- Painful urination during menstruation
Mistaken Identities …
Since endometriosis does not present in a specific pattern, diagnosing it without surgery is almost impossible. The symptoms of endometriosis often mimic other health problems that are peculiar to women, such as:
- Ovarian cysts
- Ectopic pregnancy
- PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Ovarian or colon cancer
… Associated Health Issues
According to researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), women who suffer with endometriosis also have a propensity to other disorders that include:
- Autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues:
- Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
- Endocrine diseases that affect glandular tissue such as hypothyroidism
- Atopic diseases such as allergies and asthma
How Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis Connect
Women involved in a 1998 survey of 3,680 members of the Endometriosis Association were found to be over a hundred times more likely to experience chronic fatigue syndrome than women in the general population of the US. Additionally, women with endometriosis were more than twice as likely to experience fibromyalgia as other women. Twenty percent of these women had more than one disease and thirty-one percent of those with more than one disease were also diagnosed with either fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
It seems that fatigue and endometriosis go hand in hand yet it is not often a recognized symptom of endometriosis. Fatigue is debilitating, perhaps the most difficult part of the disease and can be related to pain or medication. However, the research cited above seems to indicate that it is quite likely women with endometriosis who are suffering intense fatigue are dealing with fibromyalgia syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome. Dealing with the fatigue that is part and parcel of the endo-fibro connection requires some due diligence on the woman’s part. By following the prescribed methods of dealing with fibromyalgia fatigue, a woman with endometriosis who is experiencing the associated fatigue can find some measure of relief.